"Why did you buy this?" Cath, my wife, asked. This was not
an unfamiliar question. In fact, I can't recall a single time
in our relationship where I've come back from a store and not heard
See, I'm sort of an impulse buyer. I can't help it. If it's on
sale, brightly colored or pours from a twist-top, it goes in the
cart. Sure, perhaps I could've used better judgment the day I
purchased two flats of canned green beans, but from a fiscal point
of view it was a steal. At one point, in an effort to rid our house
of these cans and give the world back a good chunk of its aluminum
supply, I found myself mixing a batch of green bean pancakes for
breakfast. A week later I bought 6 loaves of bread for the
price of 3. We barely finished one before the others turned
into the back end of a science experiment. As a result I'm no
longer allowed into a shopping warehouse by myself.
But this time it was different. Lucy, my 3-year-old, and I
had just walked down the street to get some bubble bath and
moisturizer. There shouldn't have been anything to question,
but sure enough, I turn around a Cathy is holding bar of
soap. This isn't your run-of-the-mill bar of Irish
Spring. This is one of those hand-crafted,
fancy-paper-wrapped, straw-tied, $12-price-tag,
made-in-Jane's-kitchen, gourmet bars of soap. It didn't make sense.
It was not on sale, it wasn't brightly colored and it was
definitely not pourable…. I would never have bought this! In
fact, I'm appalled that she would even question me. Sometimes
it's like she doesn't even know who I am.
"I didn't buy that." I scoffed.
"Well it's in the stroller." I shrug my shoulders, Cath
shrugs her shoulders and then we both glance over at Lu, who's
noshing on some string cheese. Without missing a beat, she
pulls off a long string, puts it in her mouth and says without
looking at either of us, "Oh that's mine. I put it in the
stroller. It's beautiful. It smell nice, like oranges."
I wasn't sure what disturbed me more: the fact that she thought
this $12 bar of Rosemary scented soap smelled like oranges, or that
my 3-year-old is clearly on her way to a life of crime.
"Lu? Did you accidentally put this in the stroller and
forget to tell Daddy?" I was giving her an out. If she's
smart she'll bat her eyes shyly at me, say yes and plead cuteness,
"Nah, I just took it." I gasp, Cath gasps, Lu chews her cheese.
"On accident? You took it on accident right? If you
took it on accident, it's okay you didn't know better, we can fix
this, but it was an accident wasn't it?"
"Nooooo, I took it on purpose. It wasn't an accident, I
just wanted it. So I took it. I took it so I could clean my
body with beautiful orange soap."
"Lu, what you did was steal, and that's a very bad thing to
do. I think we need go back to the store so you can apologize
and give them back their soap."
We head back to the scene of the crime. As soon as we walk
inside, Lu grabs the soap from the bottom of the stroller, walks
over to a shelf and puts it in the very spot she took it
from. Before I knew what had happened - and before anyone had
seen her - she was back in the stroller and ready to go.
"Okay I put it back, now let's go. Let's go, let's go!"
She was shouting out orders like I was Bonnie and she was
This was supposed to teach her a lesson! That wasn't how
this was supposed to go down. She was supposed return the bar of
soap and be so embarrassed by her actions that she'll never
shoplift again. In a hazy panic, I turn the stroller around
and start to leave. I tell myself that it's the right thing
to do. After all in order for the whole moral lesson thing to play
out she would have to re-shoplift the soap, give it to the manager,
explain that this particular bar of soap was in here before, then
it was in my house, but I didn't pay for it so I brought it back,
returned it to the shelf… I decide we'll just have a talk on the
way home, but before we can leave, a lady materializes from behind
a can of shaving cream.
"Hello, can I help you find anything?"
"Nope, just looking." Why am I sweating? I can feel my
pulse in my throat. I was telling myself to be cool and then Lucy
says, "No thank you, we were stealing soap and we're done and we
are going home." I mask my nervousness with girlish laughter
and furious bout of gum smacking. Has she lost her mind? For God's
sake, I was supposed to be the voice of reason, and now I'm an
accomplice! After a few moments of panic I finally crack and rat
out Lucy. Shaving cream lady seems more confused than
I explain our situation, we all have an uneasy laugh and Lucy
apologizes to the store manager. We spend a few more minutes
in the store smelling things (orange things) before heading
home. Along the way we stop to pick up a few leaves, scare a
few squirrels and talk about the difference between wrong and
right. After all was said and done, I stop the stroller and
ask Lucy to tell me why what she did was wrong.
"It was wrong because I stole it on purpose."
"Very good," I reply. This is a learning moment, and
I'm pleased. I thought she had a clear understanding of the
situation and this was something we would never have to deal with
again and then she turned around. She smiled, batted her eyes
shyly at me and said, "Don't worry, Daddy, I know stealing on
purpose is wrong. That's why the next time I steal something,
I'll remember to make sure I do it on accident."
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